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Renters Warehouse BW Metro | December 18, 2023

What Happens If A Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent? Here’s What You Need To Know

Renting out your property can be a great way to earn extra income, but it also comes with challenges. One of the biggest issues landlords face is tenants who don’t pay rent. It’s a frustrating situation that can leave you overwhelmed and wondering what to do next. 

Our experts at RW BW Metro discuss what happens if a tenant doesn’t pay rent and how a professional property manager can help you navigate rent collection.

What Is Late Rent?

Late rent is when a tenant fails to pay on the agreed-upon date stipulated in the rental agreement or lease. This payment delay can be a few days or weeks, creating a significant financial burden for the landlord. It's important to note that different jurisdictions have different rules concerning how late a rent payment must be before a landlord can take formal action. 

We advise landlords to familiarize themselves with local tenancy laws to manage late rent collection situations appropriately.

When Is Rent Considered Late?

Rent is considered late unless paid on the due date as agreed upon in the lease agreement. The due date is typically the first day of every month, but this can vary based on the terms set in the contract. Some leases may include a grace period, a short period after the due date, during which payment can be made without incurring late fees. 

The grace period should be clearly stated in the lease if one is provided. If rent is not paid by the end of the grace period, it is officially considered late. The landlord and tenant must know these details to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.

When you determine that rent is late, there are 6 things that you can do:

1. Read the Lease for Specifics on Due Dates, Grace Periods, and Penalties


Every leasing agreement is a legally binding document that outlines the specifics of rent collection, including the due date, any applicable grace periods, and the consequences of late payments. Therefore, it is crucial that landlords and tenants thoroughly read and understand the terms of the lease agreement. This understanding ensures both parties are clear about their obligations and responsibilities, helping to prevent miscommunications and disputes. 

If rent collection issues arise, the lease agreement will be the primary reference point for the appropriate next steps. The lease may also specify the actions to be taken in case of continued non-payment, including late fees or eviction procedures. 

2. Send a Reminder Notice: Give Tenants Time to Pay Before Enforcing Fees

Sending a reminder notice to the tenant before enforcing late fees or initiating eviction proceedings is considered good practice. This notice is a courtesy reminder that rent is due and provides the tenant an additional opportunity to clear their outstanding balances. It usually includes the due amount, date, and potential late fees if payment is not received within a specified timeframe. 

By issuing this notice, landlords can maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship, and often, this initial prompt is all that's needed for the rent to be paid.

Unhappy worried woman talking on phone while sitting on sofa3. Reach Out By Phone

After sending a written notice, contacting the tenant by phone can be beneficial. This allows for a more personal interaction and might prompt a quicker response. During the call, remain professional, friendly, and understanding. Discuss the late payment, ask if any issues have prevented them from paying, and remind them of the importance of timely payment. 

This is also an opportunity to discuss any late fees that may apply according to the lease agreement. It's important to remember that the aim is to maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship and to resolve the issue of late payment amicably and efficiently. If the tenant does not respond to phone calls, further steps like a certified letter or legal action might be necessary.

4. Deliver a Pay or Quit Notice

If communication attempts fail and the tenant withholds rent, the following action may be delivering a "Pay or Quit" notice. This notice is a legal document that informs the tenant of the overdue rent and provides them with a specific timeframe, usually between 3 to 5 days, to either pay the outstanding amount or vacate the premises. The notice should clearly outline the amount of rent overdue, the date by which payment or eviction should occur, and what can happen if the tenant fails to comply (typically, the initiation of eviction proceedings). 

Rent collection is an essential aspect of managing properties. Following local regulations for "Pay or Quit" notices to avoid eviction complications. Suppose you need to familiarize yourself with this process. In that case, seeking guidance from a legal expert or a property manager may be beneficial to ensure you follow all the correct procedures.

5. Initiate Eviction Proceedings

If the tenant fails to comply with the "Pay or Quit" notice and continues withholding rent, the landlord may have no option but to begin the eviction process. This legal procedure must be conducted strictly with local landlord-tenant laws. The eviction process typically starts with the landlord filing a lawsuit, often called an "unlawful detainer" lawsuit, in the local civil court. 

This lawsuit must clearly outline the reasons for eviction, provide evidence of the "Pay or Quit" notice, and prove that rent has not been paid. If the court rules in the landlord's favor, a court order for eviction will be issued, and law enforcement officials will carry out the eviction, if necessary. Importantly, landlords must never attempt to force the tenant out themselves, as doing so is illegal and could lead to significant legal trouble. 

Navigating an eviction can be complex and stressful, so landlords may want to seek advice from a legal expert or property manager to ensure they follow the correct legal procedures.

6. Hire a Property Manager 

Employing the services of a professional property manager can significantly alleviate the stress and complexity associated with late rent situations. Property managers are well-versed in local tenancy laws and are equipped with the necessary skills to handle delicate situations such as late rent payments. They can streamline rent collection procedures and enforce timely payments, significantly reducing the chances of late rent. 

In cases where rent is overdue, property managers can professionally handle the communication process, issuing reminders and late rent notices on behalf of landlords. Furthermore, if necessary, they can guide landlords through the legal intricacies of "Pay or Quit" notices and eviction proceedings. By hiring a property manager, landlords can ensure that rent collection is managed efficiently and legally, allowing them to focus on other aspects of property ownership. 

Confident property manager consulting old senior couple clients Hire a Property Manager to Help Navigate the Complexities of Rent Collection 

Managing late and missed rent payments is integral to being a landlord. It requires clear communication, a firm understanding of local tenancy laws, and a delicate balance between enforcing rules and maintaining a positive landlord-tenant relationship. Landlords must be prepared to take legal action if necessary, which requires careful adherence to legal procedures and regulations. 

Employing a professional property manager can simplify these complexities, ensuring rent collection procedures are carried out effectively and legally. The right property manager improves on-time collection rates and deals with late payment situations. Contact RW BW Metro to learn how they can help you navigate this process and ensure your property is in good hands!

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